Potential rivals Biden and Clinton urge women to vote this fall

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Democratic National Committee's Women's Leadership Forum.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum.
(Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Joe Biden and Hillary Rodham Clinton, two potential 2016 presidential contenders, competed for support from the Democratic Party’s key bloc of women voters Friday, even if their stated goal was to urge them to help Democrats hold on to control of the U.S. Senate this fall.

At a Democratic Party event at which President Obama later spoke, Biden and Clinton highlighted their work on women’s issues over the last few decades and argued that while there had been progress, it was not nearly enough.

The vice president noted that his staff had just celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act that he championed as a U.S. senator. When he argued for the act back then, he said, his critics said it was just another “Biden fad.”


“But it wasn’t a fad, it was a social failure,” the vice president told the mostly female audience who greeted him with cheers in a ballroom in downtown Washington.

Biden said his desire was to force the American people “to take a close look at the face of domestic violence -- the women who were abused.

They knew, he said, “if we forced America to look [domestic violence] in the eye, they would stand up…. We began to put a face on this heinous crime.”

Biden also struck an odd note when, in the course of criticizing today’s Republican Party -- “this is a different breed of cat,” he said -- he fondly recalled working with some past Republicans, including former Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood.

Packwood resigned in 1995 after being accused by numerous women of physical assaults and crude behavior going back decades.

Both Clinton and Biden noted that the recent wave of abuse allegations involving National Football League players had shone a spotlight on the work that still needs to be done.


Clinton noted that her husband, President Clinton, signed the Violence Against Women Act, but said celebration of the 20thanniversary was “tempered by troubling news on many fronts — from the outrages of the NFL, to more assaults against women in uniform and at college.” She praised the Obama administration’s new effort to address sexual assault, announced by the president and Biden earlier Friday.

But the former secretary of State also emphasized the need for more work on other issues — including the Democratic push for raising the minimum wage, broadening access to subsidized child care and ensuring equal pay for men and women who do the same job.

With Washington’s “gridlock and grandstanding,” Clinton said, “the midterms really matter.

“I know they may not be as glamorous as presidential elections,” she said, hinting at her own potential plans, but the November contests “deserve our undivided attention.”

“Voters have a choice in November, a choice between those who blocked paycheck fairness, who applauded Hobby Lobby, who tried to stop the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act or leaders who will fight for women and girls to have the same opportunities and rights that they deserve,” Clinton said.

She listed many of the female Democrats running this cycle — including Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, and Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire — as leaders “who all give me hope.”

“We’re in the home stretch and it all comes down to who makes the effort to show up and vote,” she said.


Biden, for his part, said he was optimistic about the chances of Democrats holding the U.S. Senate this fall: “Reports of the demise of the Democratic Party are premature, they are very premature,” he said.

Clinton has said she will make a decision whether to seek the presidency next year; while he will not say as much, Biden is expected to await her decision before determining his.

The current occupant of the post, at his appearance before the Democratic women, joked that he and Biden were the token male speakers.

“That’s okay -- we’re leaning in,” Obama laughed, citing the popular book by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg.

Obama, too, made a pitch for both volunteers and voters to focus on the 2014 election, which he said represented a stark choice between Republican and Democratic philosophies.

He forwarded an optimistic assessment of the country’s forward movement and harkened to his 2008 election theme as he appealed for Democratic votes.

“Cynicism is a choice,” he said. “Hope is a better choice.”

Twitter: @maevereston; @cathleendecker